Bishop John Jewel’s Apology of the Church of England is a comprehensive statement of faith, as well as an important political and historical document of Elizabethan England. It was also intended as a Protestant answer to the Roman Catholic accusations of heresy. Bishop Jewel emphasizes the continuity between the Reformers’ thought and the truth of the Scriptures, the apostles, and church fathers such as Augustine, Tertullian, Ambrose, and Jerome.
The Apology’s statement of doctrine begins with an affirmation of the Nicene Creed. Jewel hoped to defend the doctrinal beliefs of Protestant Reformers more effectively by establishing their orthodoxy and common roots. This treatise’s elegant language and clear statements of conviction were an unparalleled service to the Church when published in 1562, and this remains a significant document today. Students of church history and scholars alike will find Bishop Jewel’s Apology a valuable addition to their library.
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“For it is our faith that applieth the death and cross of Christ to our benefit, and not the act of the massing priest. ‘Faith had in the sacraments,’ saith Augustine, ‘doth justify, and not the sacraments.’ And Origen saith,* ‘Christ is the priest, the propitiation, and sacrifice: which propitiation cometh to every one by mean of faith.’ So that by this reckoning, we say, that the sacraments of Christ without faith do not once1 profit these that be alive; a great deal less do they profit those that be dead.” (Pages 35–36)
“And according to the judgment of the Nicene council,* we say, that the bishop of Rome hath no more jurisdiction over the church of God,* than the rest of the patriarchs, either of Alexandria, or of Antiochia have.” (Page 22)
“We have indeed put ourselves apart, not as heretics are wont, from the church of Christ, but as all good men ought to do, from the infection of naughty persons and hypocrites.” (Page 70)
“And that we have searched out of the Holy Bible, which we are sure cannot deceive, one sure form of religion, and have returned again unto the primitive church of the ancient fathers and apostles, that is to say, to the first ground and beginning of things, as unto the very foundations and headsprings of Christ’s church4.” (Page 152)
“Neither have we any other mediator and intercessor, by whom we may have access to God the Father, than10 Jesus Christ, in whose only name all things are obtained at his Father’s hand.” (Page 38)
John Jewel (sometimes spelled Jewell) (1522–1571) was a bishop who sought to ground the Church of England in its traditional beliefs after the divisions caused by Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Mary I. In his sermons, he challenged the Catholic Church to defend its beliefs out of Scripture or the words of the Church Fathers. The ensuing debates led him to publish Apology of the Church of England, which presented a precise explanation of the stance of the Church of England against Catholicism and established him as the literary apologist of his time.